Sex Ed Gone Wrong: Teacher Says Getting Busy Makes Girls Just Like a Dirty Peppermint Pattie

Mississippi may have one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation, but educators still rely on abstinence-only scare tactics.

(Photo: Kissyface/Flickr)

Apr 4, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Perhaps the analogy that “having sex makes you like sticky tape that’s stuck so much it loses its stickiness” was not available. Or maybe the teacher was having a serious craving for something sweet. But making teenagers pass around an unwrapped piece of chocolate and then equating how filthy it gets to a girl who has premarital sex is definitely on the list of classroom demonstrations that shouldn’t happen.

That’s exactly what a teacher did in a sex education class in Mississippi. Although a York Peppermint Pattie is known for being minty and fresh, the teacher used the chocolaty treat "to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex—that she's been used," parent Marie Barnard told the Los Angeles Times.

Not only does this kind of lesson send a sexist, shaming message to girls that their value is tied to being pure and virginal, but what also makes it troublesome is that Mississippi has one of the nation’s highest teen pregnancy rates. In 2011, nearly 50 babies per 1,000 females were born, compared with the national rate of 31 babies per 1,000, according to the Times. Fully one-third of those babies were born to teen moms.

The statistics are so concerning that during the 2012–2013 school year, the state’s legislature finally voted to allow sex ed to be taught in school. While that sounds promising, Barnard, a health educator, says, "Basically, the law stinks in Mississippi.” That’s because it requires districts to emphasize abstinence.

What's the problem with that? The highest rates of STDs are in states where kids get the abstinence-only talk. They aren't fully educated about sexual health, so if they have sex, they don't protect themselves.

That doesn't mean teachers aren't talking to the kids about STDs. Other students report being told that if they have sex, they'll get AIDS and die.

Maybe next time, the teacher should consider informing the teens that, on top of abstinence, there's another way to avoid HIV infection. Here's a sample lesson: Put a condom over the Peppermint Pattie, pass it around, and then have the students observe how clean it is. The teacher could even take a bite out of the candy to show that, despite being handled by dozens of people, it's still delicious.

Never mind—condom demonstrations aren't allowed.